Art vs. realism in drawing

Recently, a friend commissioned a few portraits from me, and after I had finished them, I went over to her house to drop them off. While there, I told her how for so long, I felt like I wasn’t really an artist, because mostly I just really love to draw faces, and I like to draw them as realistically as possible. 

I think she could tell that I still harbor a little bit of self consciousness about that, and she said that she understood where I was coming from—that the art community doesn’t always have a high opinion of realism—but that she thought the only reason for that was because of photography. She felt like, if photography didn’t exist, realism would be considered just as valid a form of art. 

I really appreciated her saying that, and just the appreciation she has for what I do. It also got me thinking, why do photographs make realistic art less valuable? The simplest answer, I think, is that someone can produce the same result (or something similar) with less effort. But this got me thinking, couldn’t you say the same thing about abstract or impressionistic forms of art? There are so many digital shortcuts that you can really make any kind of art, and you can probably do it in less steps using a computer. 

Basically, I feel like, the value of art doesn’t need to depend so much on “well technology can make that easier/better/more quickly.” I would be hard pressed to list all of the reasons why art matters, but ultimately, if a given style of art (even realism!) is meaningful to me to create, and meaningful or pleasing or just fun for someone else to see and appreciate, then I think that’s good enough.

Mostly I’m still just giving myself a pep talk and unlearning all the dismissive stuff I’ve heard or thought to myself and internalized. Because I just really, really like drawing faces 🙂